I have not ranked the books because as Frances-Anne pointed out, each book has its own audience and appeal. Overall, however, the books are fairly representative of the majority of readers of this blog: North American/Caribbean and between the ages of 25 and 55.
Here are the books:
A House for Mister Biswas by V.S. Naipaul.
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
Brother Man by Roger Mais.
In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming
Miguel Street by VS Naipaul
Minty Alley by CLR James
The Children of Sisyphus by Orlando Patterson
The Dragon Can't Dance By Earl Lovelace
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Sir Vidia had two books in the running, A House for Mr. Biswas and Miguel Street, and three of the books were written by women. I couldn't help but notice the thread of social realism that connects some of these works. If you notice any other similarities or you'd like to comment on the process or the books, please leave a comment.
I've also made a comparison between this list and my choices, and five out of the ten are on my Top Ten List. I could have had six, but Danticat's, The Dew Breaker, is a much richer book in terms of exploring Haitian culture and my relationship with the characters was far more complex. I was more willing to empathize with the characters in The Dew Breaker than with Sophie in Breath, Eyes, Memory for whom I could feel only sympathy.
And this is a crucial difference and perhaps Edwidge's breakthrough in what the booksellers call "minority" or "World Literature" which usually posits race, gender and class as the cause of suffering, and begins from a premise of victimhood rather than having a central character as John Gardner states in The Art of Fiction, " [Who] is struggling for his or her own goals" (65).
In The Dew Breaker, the cause of the character's suffering is not because she is female and Haitian, but is caused by a discovery about her father which is complicated by the fact that she is female (a daughter) and Haitian. These complications work against her discovering the truth because she is a doting daughter and Haitian society is closed to inquiry about subjects such as the Ton-Ton Macoutes. This is what makes a fiction like The Dew Breaker "universal" because Danticat book explores the relationship between a father and daughter, and ranks as "world class" literary fiction.
For more on this, look out my upcoming post this Wednesday(4/4/07): "Desire, The Secret, and Literary Fiction."
I've just published four poems, including "poltergeist or the duende's gift," over at the Concelebratory Shoehorn Review.